To Woo or to Draw – that is the question

In a recent discussion, the question was raised: what did Christ mean when He said that He would “draw all men” to Him (John 6:44)? Is it a resistible or irresistible “drawing”? The popular explanation is that Christ “woos” people and people can decide whether or not they want to partake of His wooing – a resistible drawing, if you will. While that explanation sits well in the hearts and minds of many Western Christians, I don’t think it sits well with the heart and mind of Scripture. Instead of drawing from a modern opinion as to what Jesus might have meant, I suggest we instead draw from Scripture and see if Scripture illuminates the idea.

The Verse:

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” NIV

The Word:

Draw: “helkuo (G6170)” – Strong’s Concordance

The Analysis:

The analysis will be done examining Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries and The New Testament Greek Lexicon.

Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries:

G1670 helkuo (hel-koo’-o) (or helko hel’-ko) VERB

1. to drag {literally or figuratively} [probably akin to G138]

KJV: draw

Compare: G1667. See also: G138.

haireomai (hai-reh’-om-ai) (Some of the forms are borrowed from a cognate hellomai hel’-lom-ai; which is otherwise obsolete) VERB
1. to take for oneself, i.e. to prefer

G1667 helisso (hel-is’-so) VERB
1. to coil or wrap

The New Testament Greek Lexicon

1. to draw, drag off
2. metaph., to draw by inward power, lead, impel

Translated Words
1. KJV (8) – draw, 8;
2. NAS (8) – drag, 1; dragged, 2; draw, 1; draws, 1; drew, 2; haul, 1;

The Verses:

This is a complete list of all verses in the Bible using the word “helkuo (G1670)”. It gives us a rather clear idea of what the Apostolic writers meant when they used the word:

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. NIV

John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” NIV

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) NIV

John 21:6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. NIV

John 21:11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. NIV

Acts 16:19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. NIV

Acts 21:30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. NIV

James 2:6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? NIV


With this definition of ‘helkuo’ and this list of verses in hand, I don’t know why anyone would want to choose ‘woo’ as a Biblical understanding of what Jesus is saying in John 6 since no one in the Bible, not even John himself, means anything resembling ‘woo’ whenever “helkuo” is used. I’m therefore obligated to conclude that “helkuo” means something much closer to “forcibly dragged” than “woo”. Or to re-read the verse:  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drags him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Thankfully, that ‘drag’ includes supplanting our will (Phil 2:12-13; John 1:12-13) with His own so that we become a child of God. I don’t think most people equate ‘woo’ with ‘drag’, so I’m of the opinion we ought not correlate the two when trying to understand John 6.

No wonder there’s no salvation to be found in any other name under heaven. No one else has the ability to draw a human quite like that.

Word Study: Draw (PDF 17k) This PDF is suitable for printouts if you want to share it with your friends

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3 comments to To Woo or to Draw – that is the question

  • For those who are formally educated in the Greek language, there is no ambiguity or loose interpretation as a possibility in the use of the verb helkuo. The use of the verb is exactly as you described. Some will do violence to the Greek in order to preserve a flawed system of beliefs. Unfortunate but true.

  • Samuel Sparks

    So why don’t we as a church go out and Drag people to church against their Will once we have dragged them with a truck and they are half dead at church we can then invite them to Christ and they will gladly accept that’s exactly what you are saying God uses force to convert us that sounds like Islam you are going to convert with the threat of a bayonet or Gun it’s just plain nonsense

    • admin

      Thanks for the reply, Samuel.
      Since God has more abilities than we do (eg, He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnitemporal), He has options available to Him that are not available to us. This is true of any being that is of a higher order than another (eg, you have more options available to you than a dog or cat).

      So it is not immoral for God to do certain things that would be immoral for us to do. One of them is ‘drawing’ people to Him.

      Conversely, nowhere in Scriptures are we told to go and drag people to church against their will. We’re told to “make Disciples” (Matt 28:19-20). Disciples, by definition, are willing participants.


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